Science Prep Academy is a STEM career-prep school in Phoenix, Arizona, that educates intelligent, positive, neurodivergent students of diverse backgrounds and means. Being a part of the Science Prep community doesn’t just mean academic growth for students but emotional well-being and learning.
“Science Prep Academy prepares our students for life after high school,” said Jessica Strouth.
Strouth is the STEM Curriculum Chair and an Instructor at Science Prep Academy. She has been with Science Prep Academy for 5 years and has been teaching neurodiverse students for over 10 years now. But she says it is at Science Prep Academy that she has found more leadership opportunities when it comes to how she teaches.
Her curriculum is designed by her with her teaching style in mind. And it is here where she fosters the minds of the next generation. With a classroom size of only 5-10 students, she can cater to her students and truly prepare them for life after high school.
“Autism is a superpower. We celebrate neurodiversity rather than try to accommodate it. Students feel more invested and they appreciate the environment they have because they are celebrated for their differences… instead of just being moved to a separate classroom,” said Strouth.
“They felt othered,” said Strouth when referring to how some students feel at traditional public schools. At Science Prep Academy she says this may be the first time they feel celebrated and it is a real difference in how they feel just for being who they are.
Science Prep Academy stands by the phrase that we believe neurodivergent students can become computer scientists. Strout states no matter what field her students decide to go towards, what STEM teaches them will allow them to succeed.
“Everyone uses technology in some fashion. So we have been focusing primarily on that and we teach students here to think like computer scientists because that framework for problem-solving you can apply anywhere,” said Strouth.
A study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders found that students with autism choose majors in science, technology, engineering, and math at higher rates than students in the general population. However, more than 85% of autistic adults are not employed. Science Prep Academy is designed to make sure that if the students choose to go into the workforce, they will be prepared and successful. Strouth states that what really helps the school do the above is the social-emotional learning she implements every day.
“We are teaching our kids to care about each other and the world around them,” said Strouth, “We teach them to be respectful and responsible… the population we serve is underserved when it comes to this.”
Strouth states she sees a lot of these social-emotional skills being taught in early childhood, but not in life after elementary school. Every day when students come they are learning to navigate their feelings and moods. This is what sets Science Prep Academy apart from other schools or programs Strout says.
“In the classroom, I designate myself as the lead learner, rather than a teacher,” said Strouth, “We explore and learn many things together… I prefer to show them how to learn.”
For more information about Science Prep Academy, please visit scienceprepacademy.com